“I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being.”

Bill Brandt

An English photographer of German birth, Bill Brandt traveled to Vienna in 1927 to see a lung specialist and then decided to stay and find work in a photography studio. There, in 1928, he met and made a successful portrait of the poet Ezra Pound, who subsequently introduced Brandt to the American-born, Paris-based photographer Man Ray. Brandt arrived in Paris to begin three months of study as an apprentice at the Man Ray Studio in 1929, at the height of the era’s enthusiasm for photographic exhibitions and publications; his work from this time shows the influence of André Kertész and Eugène Atget, as well as Man Ray and the Surrealists.

Upon his return to London, in 1931, Brandt was well versed in the language of photographic modernism. During the 1930s he published his important early monographs The English at Home (1932) and A Night in London (1932) in addition to becoming a frequent contributor to the illustrated press, specifically Picture Post, Lilliput, Weekly Illustrated, and Verve, his published pictures exemplifying his technical skill and his interest in building visual narratives. Some of his most significant reportages represented the extreme conditions created by World War II. After the war, Brandt began a long exploration of the female nude, transforming the body through the angle and frame of the camera lens.

Note: Opening quote is from Bill Brandt, “A Photographer’s London,” in Camera in London (London: The Focal Press, 1948), 15, and cited in Meister, Sarah Hermanson. “Shadow and Light: The Life and Art of Bill Brandt.” In Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light, by Bill Brandt and Sarah Hermanson Meister (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2013), 10.

Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, 2014

Wikipedia entry
Bill Brandt (born Hermann Wilhelm Brandt; 2 May 1904 – 20 December 1983): 14  was a British photographer and photojournalist. Born in Germany, Brandt moved to England, where he became known for his images of British society for such magazines as Lilliput and Picture Post; later he made distorted nudes, portraits of famous artists and landscapes. He is widely considered to be one of the most important British photographers of the 20th century.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Born 3 May 1904; died 20 December 1983. Brandt began photographing in Vienna, Austria from 1927 to 1928. From 1929 to 1930 Brandt studied under the surrealist artist Man Ray in Paris, and became influenced by surrealism. From 1931 to 1939 Brandt set up as a freelance photographer in London, England. He specialized in social documentary photography, and often collaborated with the press. From 1939 to 1945 Brandt turned to photojournalism. Brandt photographed air-raid shelters and Londoners during war-time from 1940 to 1945 for the British Home Office. He also took documentary photographs for the National Buildings Record, London, England. British photographer, born in Germany, raised in Switzerland.
British, English, German
Artist, Photojournalist, Photographer
Bill Brandt, Hermann Wilhelm Brandt
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


105 works online



  • Photography at MoMA: 1920 to 1960 Hardcover, 416 pages
  • The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 152 pages
  • Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 208 pages

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].